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At Mind Matters News: Did the octopus really know she was dying? Was she trying to say goodbye?


Well, not exactly. But we are learning that invertebrates can have feelings in the same way vertebrates do. An octopus might be somewhat like a cat:

It’s impossible to know if the octopus was waving goodbye. A cat who is about to be put to sleep by the vet (due to, say, no-longer-treatable kidney failure) can easily be interpreted as acting like he knows he is about to die. But we humans are probably over interpreting his behavior. He knows he feels rotten but understands nothing of the conversations between humans as to the cause or the outcome of his problems.

Death is a reality for all life forms, as experienced — but it is an abstraction, as contemplated. Knowledge of death is a sort of gulf between us and the animals whom we can befriend.

Perhaps it’s better that way. News, “Did the octopus really know she was dying? Was she trying to say goodbye?” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: It’s an interesting fact that intelligence in animals is not nearly as firmly fixed in a hierarchy of evolution as we used to believe. Octopuses are extreme outliers and we are only just beginning to get to know them.

You may also wish to read: Is the octopus a “second genesis” of intelligence?


Octopuses get emotional about pain, research suggests. The smartest of invertebrates, the octopus, once again prompts us to rethink what we believe to be the origin of intelligence. The brainy cephalopods behaved about the same as lab rats under similar conditions, raising both neuroscience and ethical issues.

This reminds me painfully of something that happened in 1971. I was helping my parents to move, and the back gate was open while I loaded furniture in my truck. Their young dog Niko, who wasn't very smart, ran out through the gate to bark at a passing pedestrian, and a car hit him. It was clear that he wasn't going to last because his skull was fractured. I lifted him off the pavement onto the grass and held his head. After several minutes of crying, he wagged his tail twice, lifted his head, and licked my hand. Then the light of life went out. polistra

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